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A decadent Saturday – Selfridge’s Oyster Bar

My sister and her fiancée were visiting this past weekend and we wanted to do something nice. We ended up being extremely decadent indeed, starting in the morning at Ladurée in Harrod’s, moving onto the Oyster & Champagne Bar in Selfridge’s for smoked salmon and champagne and finishing with a beautiful Japanese meal in Sushi-Say in Willesden. It was more decadent than I have ever been in my life, I really must make more of a habit of these little treats. Occasionally, of course ;)

I am going to talk about Sushi-Say in it’s own post later as it deservss it’s own space and I have a few pictures of the beautiful food to share. I only had macarons in Ladurée and I’ve done that before so we’ll get back to that at another time. For now, I want to talk about the smoked salmon in Selfridge’s.

I have passed by the Oyster and Champagne bar in the Selfridge’s Food Hall countless times but it never appealed to me, it seems quite clinical thrown to the side of the cheese counter and, I’ve always thought that if I am going to be decadent it would be nicer to do it in better surroundings. My visitors really wanted to try some Oysters, however, and we were going to Selfridge’s anyway so it seemed like a good option for a quick stop. So, in we went and perused the menu. The smoked salmon looked great so we got that and some blue prawn salad. Also, some oysters, although I didn’t have any.

The smoked salmon was from Frank Hederman’s Belvelly Smokehouse
in Cobh, Cork (Ireland). I have heard about his smoked eel, it’s supposed to be beautiful and as there was no eel I had to have some of the salmon. It has got great credentials, they’re affiliated with the Slow Food Movement in Ireland, have been featured in the NY Times, Bridgestone Guides, Rick Stein’s Food Heroes and they supply Rick Stein & Ballymaloe among others.

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Parisian Local Food Market

While in Paris, I wandered into a local weekly food market by chance. It was fantastic and depressing. Why don’t we have these? Local people buying their weekly groceries, it was so relaxed and bountiful. The quality was fantastic and prices very reasonable. If we had one here people would travel miles to it. There were several fruit and veg stalls, a few cheese stalls, fish stalls, a charcuterie, boucherie, really everything you would need. The supermarket nearby was empty, why would you go? And to top it, it was surrounded by lovely food shops, 2 charcuteries, a chocolatiers, a boulangerie, to name but a few. Bring back proper food markets to the UK, I say! There should be one in every town.

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What is everyone else doing?

I participated in my first DMBLGIT competition, run at Spittoon Extra. The winners were fantastic and well deserved, an inspiration really.

Running with Tweezers has run a Summer Soup Challenge. There’s some beautiful entries (54 in all). I will definitely be trying some, particularly, confetti gazpacho at Kalyn’s Kitchen, an Asian spin on Matzoh Ball Soup from Arfi at HomeMadeS and Married with Dinner‘s Watermelon Gazpacho.

Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has posted a recipe for amazing looking vegetarian lentil burgers that is begging to be tried.

Haalo at Cook Almost Anything published a recipe for Ajo Blanco, a white gazpacho made with almonds, bread and garlic that I sought out in Spain and that I am very keen to try and make. It was published in March but I only found it recently through Becks & Posh who raved about it.

Ever have leftover egg whites? I did after recent making carbonara. David Lebowitz has published several recipes for using them, including a favourite, macarons.

At Eat my Globe, a foodies journey through middle age, Hermanos 1 has been to Hong Kong. It’s the kind of trip that I have always wanted to do so I am living it through him. I’ll do it eventually… I’ve mad a promise to myself.

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande has made a beautiful amaranth, quinoa & dark chocolate cake – it’s got to be healthy, right?!

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Homemade Pizza

I love good pizza. Everyone has their own take on what that is but for me it has a thin crispy base, good sauce (NOT tomato purée!) and simple but good quality toppings. It can be quite hard to find this so I like to make my own occasionally. It takes alot of time but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in doing it from scratch. Dissolving the yeast, seeing the dough take shape, and kneading & kneading it until the dough becomes stretchy and shiny and ready for a stint of relaxation while you make your sauce. It’s an arduous process, but one I am happy to indulge in when I have the time. And sometimes when I don’t, like last Saturday.

I had been preparing for a few days, stocking up on fresh yeast, Italian 00 flour, too many cheeses and various types of meat. A few words about these, Italian 00 flour is a must, if only because it’s what Italians use and they know what they’re doing. It’s a fine grind flour that’s high in gluten, which results in alot of bite. I take alot of time with my sauce as tomatoes test better the longer they’re cooked, this time however, I tried a new baked tomato sauce which needs very little attention and it worked really well. The toppings? Your pizza will be as good as these, I bought some San Daniele ham, as good as parma (if not better for my taste) but slightly darker and a little sweeter, some sliced piccante chorizo, some nice rocket, buffalo mozarella, a delicate fresh chevre, manchego (one of my favourites, you can substitute cheddar or something similar if you can’t get it), some really nice black olives & lots of basil.

pizza dough

So, what about the dough? Again, this can be a contentious issue. To add olive oil or not? I always used to but actually forgot it this time, and you know what? It was still really nice. So, I would say, really it’s up to you, but this time, I rolled my pizza really thin and the dough was really light and I can’t help but wonder if this was the absence of olive oil. I’ll know next time I make it and add it. I use fresh yeast, I think it gives better results & the dough rises better and faster. You can get it in health food shops normally, at least that’s where I get mine.

Push your domestic oven to it’s limits, heat it to the highest temperature, our flat was like a sauna! I like mine rustic, rolled as big and thin as I can get it and baked on a large tray that is the width of the oven. I am impatient and wanted to try everything so I made half and half pizzas so that I could try the flavours immediately.

homemade pizza

How was it? At the risk of sounding cocky, great. No other adjective required. Washed down with some delicious wine that I brought back from Paris and followed with a good film, a great Saturday night.

Here’s the recipe. Read more

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Fast moving food – Potato, leek, broad bean & roquefort pie

So, we’re moving at the moment. I hate it and can’t wait until we’re finished and installed in our new home. It would probably be fine if it were not for my 200 odd cookbooks, 100’s of other books, cd’s… and all the other stuff that I have been hoarding for all of these years. I am being quite brutal and throwing lots of things towards the charity shop but none of the cookbooks! They must all stay.

To do this successfully, I need to eat speedy food. I am unwilling to compromise on taste so for the next few weeks expect to see quick pasta dishes, salads and pie! Open pies especially, so quick, with shop bought pastry it’s like making a fancy baked open sandwich. One pie I love to make is potato, leek, broad bean & roquefort pie. It’s so easy and the amounts I give you here you can change depending on which ingredients you favour more. I often make this with caramelised onions but time is of the essence so I sweated some leeks instead. I know the broad beans aren’t timely, but hey, they were in the fridge so in they went. I wanted it to be light, I have overindulged so much this last month that I needed some clean sharp flavours, but if you haven’t the same issue some cream or creme fraiche would work well here too. I served this with a nice salad. It was a tonic.

The potatoes deserve a special mention. I got them at The Potato Shop at Marylebone farmers market, they’re heritage potatoes – cherie red and have a lovely red skin which one cooked is very nutty, a lovely contrast to the flesh. Some info from their site:

Another continental variety, Cherie Red is popular in France, particularly as a baby salad potato. The skin is a deep red colour when washed, and the flesh is white with a floury texture. The tubers are a flattened oval shape and boil well. We sell a lot of these to lovers of red potatoes.

So yum and they really added alot to this pie. Any nice potatoes will work well of course, experiment.
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I eat like a pig

And I know I do but I am taking little comfort in the fact that people have recently been coming to my blog by searching “I eat like a pig” in search engines. It has put a smile on my face though and I thought that I would share :)

 (Photo originally published on flickr by Laurel Fan – http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/ and published here under creative commons licence)